In a recent series we examined the United Kingdom Special Forces (UKSF) spectrum. In this series we’ll review the elite components within the conventional British forces. We will start with one of the U.K.’s most renowned units: the Royal Marines, an elite amphibious commando force of the Royal Navy.

The Royal Marines (RMs), or Bootnecks as they call themselves, are a part of 3 Commando Brigade. They are a key component of the U.K.’s Rapid Reaction Force, on perpetual standby to deploy anywhere in world. Royal Marines are engaged in counter-piracy, counter-narcotics, and counterterrorism operations. Royal Marine Commandos have deployed to Afghanistan and played a significant role in the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

3 Commando Brigade

The main combat elements of the Royal Marines are the battalion-sized commando units: the 45 Commando and 40 Commando. 42 Commando is a Maritime Operation Command (MOC) specializing in maritime security operations and foreign training missions. It organizes each commando unit into six companies that each make up platoon-sized troops. Each commando battalion contains specialists in mountain and arctic warfare, identified as mountain leaders. Mountain leaders are skilled in cliff assaults, high-altitude combat, skiing, and arctic warfare.

Specialized Royal Marine subunits

  • The Fleet Protection Group of the Royal Marines was originally known as the Comacchio Group. This specially qualified and equipped group of Royal Marine Commandos are responsible for the security of Britain’s nuclear weapons.
  • The Brigade Patrol Troop is a special reconnaissance unit belonging to 3 Commando Brigade Royal Marines. The Brigade Patrol Troop inserts ahead of an amphibious landing or other RM operation to collect vital intelligence.
  • The Royal Marines Reserve is comprised of civilian volunteers. The Reserves are intended to reinforce regular soldiers with additional manpower as required.
Fleet Protection Group of the Royal Marines

Royal Marines training

Those who wish to join the RM must first pass the Potential Royal Marines Course (PRMC), a three-day course held at Commando Training Centre Royal Marines (CTCRM) at Lympstone, Devon. During this course, the recruit’s suitability for life in the Royal Marines is assessed during the following:

  • Gym test one
  • Bleep test
  • Press-ups
  • Sit-ups
  • Pull-ups
  • Swim test – Tarzan drill
  • Assault course
  • Weapons familiarization
  • Interview
  • Three-mile run
  • Gym test two
  • Realities Of training presentation
  • Debrief

Next, potential Royal Marines will head down to Lympstone for 32 weeks of punishment. The Royal Marines training program is one of the toughest, if not the toughest, military selection process in the world. Grueling fitness tests, lack of sleep, and being pushed to the limit physically and psychologically for 32 weeks will weed out those who have no place in the unit while preparing those with adequate mettle with world-leading military tactics. Should candidates pass, they will be awarded the coveted green beret.

Royal Marines history

The Royal Marines can trace their origins way back to 1664 when the Duke of York and Albany’s Maritime Regiment of Foot was first created. During the Napoleonic Wars the Royal Marines took part in every major naval battle onboard the Royal Navy’s ships and took part in multiple amphibious operations.

During the First World War, Royal Marines were assigned the task of protecting naval ships. In addition, they were a part of the Royal Naval Division that landed in Belgium in 1914. There, they assisted and defended the city of Antwerp, later taking part in the amphibious landing at Gallipoli in 1915.

During the Second World War, a small team of Royal Marines were the first ashore at Namsos in April 1940, seizing the approaches to the Norwegian town and making way for the landing of the British Army two days later. Later, these Marines would form an amphibiously trained division. The Royal Marines formed No. 1 Commando during this time (A Commando), which served at Dieppe.

Royal Marines have a distinguished record, and since their establishment in 1942 as Royal Marine Commandos have taken part in active operations worldwide every year. They were the first-ever military unit to achieve an air assault insertion by helicopter during the Suez Crisis in 1956. They also had their part to play in the land element during the 1982 Falkland War.

Next in this series we will take a look at the 148 (Meiktila) Battery Royal Artillery.